How To Pack a Tank Bag for a 6-Day Motorcycle Trip

If You Only "Think" You Need It, Don't Pack It

The motorcycle tank or tail bag taunts you, as it rests next to a looming mound of personal items -- items you want to take on your planned 6-day motorcycle trip. But the bag has very limited space and you can pare down that looming mound by packing smart, folding with precision, and finding those hidden pockets of space. Plus you need to consider the order in which you pack what you finally decide to take.

So here goes. Keep in mind that you want to pack as little as possible. Beginning with your empty bag (this one measures 15" long x 10" wide x 10" high), pack the following items in the following order:

  1. Fold flat two pairs of shorts and one pair of denims or slacks to the perimeter dimensions of the inside of the bag and place in bottom of bag.
  2. Fold flat five tops (either long-sleeve or short-sleeve, depending on your comfort level while riding) to the same perimeter dimensions of the inside of the bag and place on top of shorts and slacks. If folded as flat as possible, you have now used approximately four inches of the bag. At this point, you have not even filled half the bag and you are all set for clothing needs. At the end of each day, pull out a clean top to wear to dinner, then use that top the next day for riding.
  3. Taking one pair of shoes, tuck one shoe at each edge, with a pair of riding socks firmly stuffed into each shoe. Now you have shoes to wear to dinner and three pairs of socks (counting the pair you will start out with). Conserve space by every other day turning a used pair of socks inside out so they can be used twice.
  4. Now consider your toiletries. After shopping at your local grocery store and finding travel sizes for everything from toothpaste to hand lotion to mouthwash, invest in a zippered, waterproof pouch that will securely hold these items without the possibility of leakage. After packing this with only your barest essentials, place between the shoes. There will probably be room at each end, unless your pouch is larger than what you really need -- think about it. And remember, if you are staying at a hotel or motel each night, there will probably be complimentary toiletries.
  5. Place five pairs of underwear in a baggie and securely close after pressing out as much air as possible. Repeat with either undershirts or bras in another bag. Place one at each end of bag, completing a layer of shoes, toiletries and underwear. You now have enough clothing and personal items to last you the remaining five days of your motorcycle trip. Remember, what you wear the first day may also be layered and reused.
  6. Next, additional riding equipment. If the jacket and pants you use for riding are not waterproof, pack a waterproof riding suit and waterproof gloves -- you may end up motorcycling in the rain. With proper folding and storage in a bag, these items can be flattened to about three inches. Around the edges, tuck in a small cleaning rag and visor cleaner for use throughout the day or each morning. No matter where you ride or what time of year, your visor will get dirty.
  7. If you have done the above as described, you will have a couple remaining inches to fill in with items you now deem necessary -- a pencil and notepad to record your adventure, camera in a waterproof case, eyeglasses, etc. All of these items will be easily accessible at the top of the bag.
  8. I recommend carrying your wallet, cell phone and any other important personal papers in an inside pocket of your jacket for safekeeping. Your jacket will always be with you, whereas you will leave your tail or tank bag secured to your bike throughout the day.

Once the bag is packed, zippered closed and placed on the tail or tank of your motorcycle, secure it in place with straps and bungee cords. Ride safe and remember, "rubber side down."

Marion Cornett

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Marion, excellent tips. We'd like to see a photo of you on your cycle!

By Riley Klein